A chronological CV, which is the most common type of CV used by job hunters, presents your work experience and academic qualifications in reverse chronological order. By listing your most recent experience first, you allow recruiters to quickly see your career progression and determine your suitability. When is it appropriate to use a chronological CV and how do you write one?
The chronological CV is one of three CV formats:
- Chronological CV: this presents work experience and education in chronological order
- Functional or skills-based CV: this format places the focus on your skills
- Combination or hybrid CV: this format is a mixture of a chronological and skills-based CV
Which format you use will depend on your career history and the job you’re applying for. Chronological CVs are a great fit if you have a consistent career history or have stayed in the same industry throughout your professional life, but not so much if you have frequently changed jobs or have gaps in your employment.
Students and recent graduates: chronological CV
For students or new entrants to the job market, employers will be most interested in your education and extracurricular activities; a chronological CV is the most effective way to show the timeline of education.
Start by listing your most recent course, study programme or degree first and work backwards to your secondary school education. Only list course modules if they are relevant to the job description.
For your secondary school education, only list grades for school leaving qualifications. If you have taken exams for a number of different subjects, it’s fine to only include the grade range, e.g. A-C.
Seasoned professionals: chronological or hybrid CV
If you have extensive work experience, have stayed in the same industry or have had similar roles throughout your career, a chronological CV can work to your advantage. This is because a chronological CV can help recruiters and employers quickly understand how your most recent positions make you a suitable candidate for the role. A chronological can also help draw attention to promotions and professional growth.
A combination or hybrid CV, which is a mixture of chronological and skills-based CVs, can also be beneficial if you’re a seasoned professional as it places the emphasis on your skills and professional accomplishments.
Career changers: skills-based or hybrid CV
If you are changing careers, a chronological CV can highlight your lack of experience in specific industries or positions. In this case, a skills-based or combination CV may be better suited to your needs.
As recruiters spend seconds scanning CVs, they may not necessarily connect the dots between the positions you’ve held and the skills you developed or acquired from them. This is where a skills-based or combination CV can help.
By placing the focus on your skills, you show recruiters and employers why you’re a suitable candidate even if you gained the skills through non-conventional methods such as freelancing, volunteering or internships.
Unemployed or gaps in your CV: functional or skills-based CV
If you’re unemployed or have gaps in your CV, a chronological CV may not be the best choice as it draws attention to the last position you held. While you don’t need to list every job you’ve ever held, a chronological CV can make any gaps more noticeable.
To avoid employers noticing that you were last employed six months ago, for instance, you may want to opt for a skills-based CV that highlights your skills over your work experience and education. By emphasising your skills and your personal qualities, you take the focus off dates of employment.
How to write a chronological CV
In a chronological CV, you list everything in date order which means you start with your most recent experience first.
This section may seem like a no-brainer, but you should only include current information when it comes to your name, address, e-mail and telephone number, so that it’s easy for recruiters and employers to contact you.
As optional extras, you could also include the URL to your LinkedIn profile, portfolio or your website, if you have one.
Personal statement or profile
This is a short introductory statement which gives employers a glimpse into who you are and what you can do. Here, it’s best to focus on your most recent and relevant experience, so it’s immediately obvious why you’re a great fit for the role.
When writing this section, you’ll need to start with your most recent work experience and include the name of the company, the dates you worked and your responsibilities and achievements for each position you held.
However, if you recently worked as a temp at a fast-food restaurant and it’s not relevant to the position you’re applying for, you can choose to leave the experience off your CV.
If you have had many short-term jobs, then you may want to consider whether one of the other types of CV is more suitable for you.
List your most recent academic qualifications and work backwards. If you have more than a few years of work experience, you don’t need to refer to your secondary school education.
If you’re a recent graduate or a student, it’s recommended that you place the ‘Education’ section above the ‘Work Experience’ section in your CV, so that it is clear that you’re still in or have only recently left education.
The ‘Skills’ section of your CV lets recruiters quickly determine whether you should move on to the next stage of the hiring process.
List your skills as bullet points and add sub-bullet points of examples to demonstrate how you acquired or developed those skills.
Courses or professional affiliations can boost your application if you don’t have much practical experience in a specific industry or position.
Including this section in your CV demonstrates your willingness to develop new skills and to keep up-to-date with industry developments.
Again, only mention recent and relevant courses. When listing online courses, keep to course providers that are instantly recognisable such as Udemy, Coursera, etc.
If you’re a student or a recent graduate, this section will be of interest to you. Extra-curricular activities can show employers that you’ve taken the initiative to develop your skills outside of your studies.
Mentioning volunteer experience can be a great way to fill in the gaps in your CV, no matter which CV format you use. Volunteering between gaps in employment or even during employment shows employers that you’re driven by more than money and that you use your spare time purposefully.
Hobbies and interests
You may not have space on your CV to mention your hobbies and interests, but if you do, it’s worth mentioning any that complement the rest of your CV and that help employers see you as a well-rounded individual, e.g. chairing a book club, blogging, playing sports, etc.
Turning a chronological CV into a combination-hybrid CV or a skills-based CV is easily done when you have a base CV to work from.
Simply, make a list of your work experience, education courses and any other useful information (volunteer experience and hobbies) and add them to your CV. Then, you can tweak it as you see fit.
Using an online CV builder such as Jobseeker can help you customise your CV with ease. No matter how many sections you add or remove, you don’t have to worry about aligning bullet points or adjusting margins as the layout will always remain intact.